From “Sermon for the First Sunday in Lent” (1672)
Of seasons there are some, you know, more acceptable than others; two very acceptable and pleasant in the year, the spring and the summer. There are the same in the souls of men: a spring, when our graces and virtues begin to sprout and blossom… there is a summer, too, when “the hills,” the highest pitch and spirit of our souls, “stand thick with corn,”… when we are hung full with all heavenly fruits; when our hearts do even “burn within us,” and the whole desires even of our flesh, this dust that covers us, are on fire for heaven…This, indeed is not only the time, but the fullness of it; when, coming so replenished with grace and righteousness, we shall be fully accepted, and be sure not to be sent empty away.
Indeed, it is sometimes an autumn and a winter season with us; a time when our leaves fall off, our graces and virtues decay and wither; when the fair beauty of a summer goodness, either spent and dried away with too long a sunshine of prosperity or blasted by the first approach of some cold wind, some touch of winter, some affliction now at hand, makes the day look sad about us, and melancholy too, no way pleasing. A time, too, there is, when it is high winter with us, our faith and charity grown cold and dead… Time is a flitting… this “now” is gone as soon as spoken… today shall be as yesterday, and tomorrow as to-day… Spend as much time seriously upon that, as you do upon your dressing, your visits, your vanities… you shall be accepted “at that day,” at that day when our short fasts shall be turned into eternal feasts, our petty Lents consummate into the great Easters, when time itself shall improve into eternity, this day advance into an everlasting sunshine, and salvation appear in all its glories.
Accept us now, O Lord, we pray, in this “accepted time.” Save us, we beseech you, in this “day of salvation” so that we may one day come to that eternal one, through him in whom only we are accepted, thy beloved Son Christ Jesus. To whom, with thee and thy Holy Spirit, be consecrated all our times and days, all our years, and months, and hours, and minutes, from henceforward: to whom also be all honor and praise, all salvation and glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
Mark Frank (1613-1664) was an English priest and theologian, who showed early promise during the reign of King Charles I, but lost his position because of his loyalty to the king. At the Restoration, he became master of Pembroke College, Oxford, and archdeacon of St. Albans. Two volumes of his sermons, on the texts of the Eucharistic lectionary, were published posthumously.